Pamela Beall and Susan Nipp sound more like mothers (which they are) than like the cocreators of the Wee Sing empire. To hear them tell it, building the multimillion-dollar Wee Sing business of audiocassettes, book-and-cassette packages, coloring sets, puzzles, and videos was a matter of taking things one day at a time, fussing over details, making lists, and talking on the phone. Ask them to pick their favorite Wee Sing video and you’re likely to get the reaction of a mom pressed to name her favorite child. ”They are all totally different,” Nipp declares.
Beall, 45 (and a mother of four-Hilary, 17, Sean, 16, Kyle, 11, and Lindsay, 8), and Nipp, 48 (mother to Ryan, 17, and Devin, 15), first met in the early ’70s while graduate music students at Oregon’s Portland State University. By the time they met again in a Portland suburb a few years later, both were married with small children and frustrated that they couldn’t remember the words to favorite childhood songs. The former grade-school music teachers decided to put together an inexpensive, comprehensive songbook of their own.
Their self-published first book, Wee Sing, came out in 1977 and sold 20,000 copies before finding a home at publisher Price Stern Sloan. PSS has been singing ever since — to the tune of $60 million net sales from the Wee Sing line over the past 11 years. This year, $5 million will come from the videos alone.
The partners (who are under contract to PSS) are very conscientious. One Wee Sing video, from conception to completion, can take as long as a year. ”We spend so much time making sure this is what we want and that it’s right for kids,” says Beall. So far, they’ve hit all the right notes.